Be Interdisciplinary. Like DaVinci. And Bruce Lee.

Something that’s been on my mind lately is the seemingly ever-growing list of disciplines I’ve already been pursuing and which I have recently started or re-started pursuing. Here’s a non-inclusive list:

Currently Actively Pursuing:

  • Writing Fiction (Novels)
  • Writing Non-Fiction
  • Screenwriting
  • Directing Film (Fiction and Non-Fiction)
  • Acting
  • Editing
  • Blogging
  • Video Blogging

Pursuing, but taking a very brief Hiatus:

  • Animation
  • Drawing
  • Photography

Plan on Pursuing or Re-Pursuing in the Very Near Future

  • Capoeira
  • Wing Chun
  • Judo
  • Karate
  • Fencing

Would be nice to Pursue at Some Point in the Not Too Distant Future

  • French
  • German
  • Japanese
  • Guitar
  • Bagpipes

Now, my obvious concern is that I may be spreading myself too thin, to put it lightly. (Or, not so lightly, I’m all over the place.) There seem to be two general ways of thinking, that at first appear to contradict each other, but which I feel may actually complement each other.

The book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell talks about the principle of 10,000 hours. I actually haven’t read it yet (I read about 5 books at a time. I find any more than 5 and my reading starts becoming less effective. But Outliers is on my list). Basically, in order to become really good at something, you have to put in about 10,000 hours doing whatever it is you do. That’s the basic idea. So that kind of makes you think…hmm…maybe I should just pick one thing and focus only on that.

The only problem is, there are so many successful people who defy the “mono-disciplinary” stereotype. Here are a few of my favorite examples. I’m sure you can think of many more.

Bruce Lee

  • Martial arts instructor
  • Actor
  • Philosopher
  • Film director
  • Screenwriter
  • Martial arts founder

Aristotle

  • Physicist
  • Poet
  • Playwright
  • Rhetorician
  • Ethicist
  • Biologist
  • Zoologist

Leonard DaVinci

  • Painter
  • Sculptor
  • Architect
  • Musician
  • Scientist
  • Mathematician
  • Engineer
  • Inventor
  • Anatomist
  • Geologist
  • Cartographer
  • Botanist
  • Writer

Clint Eastwood

  • Actor
  • Director
  • Producer
  • Composer

People like Leonardo DaVinci, who are experts in many different fields are called polymaths. Another term is Renaissance Man. One of the defining characteristics of the Renaissance was that amidst so much enlightenment and forward thinking, many learned people studied and worked in many different fields.

While I don’t pretend to be, or aspire to be anywhere close to people like DaVinci, knowing that success in multiple fields is not only possible, but actually a fairly common phenomenon is a fact that comforts me on my quest to learn and do and become the very best I can be.

And while I probably won’t be able to put in 10,000 hours into any single discipline any time soon, the fact that disciplines are interconnected and related to each other probably helps explain the genius of people like DaVinci. Knowing all those other disciplines probably actually helped bolster he genius in one particular field.

The reason why this must be the case is that we live in a universe that is governed by universal laws. Every discipline is related somehow because it must adhere to those universal laws.

Before I hear any complaints from hippies about universal law, please realize what law is. We wouldn’t exist without law, without rules. Our bodies and the molecules that make them up are held together by law. Another universal law is gravity. Without gravity where would we be? Probably floating off in space somewhere. So while Neo sounds cool in the end of Matrix when he proclaims a world without rules, in reality a world without any rules could not exist. At least, it wouldn’t be a world. It would just be a bunch of chaotic energy and matter that resembles nothing.

And so it is that everything is related. Knowing more about biology can make you a better poet, and vice versa. Therefore, I’m not that worried about punching in a specific number of hours in one discipline. As long as I’m following my bliss, which means studying and pursuing and doing something of meaning, which fulfills me and makes me happy, I’m bound to make this world a better place for myself and those around me.

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3 comments

  1. […] Be Interdisciplinary. Like DaVinci. And Bruce Lee. (danielbeanfilms.com) Share this:TwitterLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

  2. Make sure you read The Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, he is an excellent writer, in fact I use The Tipping Point as reference in a lot of my meetings at my office!

    And I am about to start videoblogging myself, perhaps we can give each other pointers!

    Take it easy!

    1. It’s on my reading list for sure.

      That’s awesome. I love videoblogging. Check out the book Naked Lens that I posted about here: http://blog.danielbeanfilms.com/2012/03/15/video-journaling-a-powerful-tool-for-self-exploration/

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